The upcoming KRG elections: Possibilities for changes in power and political scenarios

By Kamal Chomani: Kurdistan Tribune – 2.4.2013

Although the date for the next Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) elections has not been set, given that the last elections were held on July 25, 2009, the next ones should be held by July 25, 2013. These might be completely different to previous elections held by the KRG.

For the first time, the post-election scenario is unclear. In previous elections – even in 2009, when a new, strong opposition party emerged – we knew the scenarios in advance. Interestingly, now we are envisaging scenarios that are contrary to the current situation. Partly this is due to the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan’s (PUK) decision to run on an independent list from Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP).

We should bear in mind that we will also have the presidential elections, putting the incumbent president, Masoud Barzani, in a crucial situation although it is unclear whether he can be nominated due to the Presidential Law which allows the president to stand for two terms only. Barzani’s second term will end by July 25, 2013. (But in this article I don’t talk about the presidential elections).The most interesting aspect of the upcoming general elections will be the PUK and KDP running on separate lists, which may completely change the political scenario. The two ruling parties, for the first time since the 1992 elections, will run independently. The Gorran Movement, Islamic Union and Islamic Group are also due to run independently. The two Islamic parties are having regular talks about running on a united Islamic List, but they have not yet agreed on this. Ultimately, I don’t think they will do. There are also some other minor parties but, apart from the Islamic Movement which may win a seat, none of them have a chance of winning anything.

There are many social, economical, political and tribal evils that can affect and change the results of the KRG elections, but one of the main evils is the electoral fraud that both ruling parties – and in particular the KDP – have each time committed to change the results.  Independent lists of the KDP and PUK will decrease the likelihood of fraud this time since both parties will have observers at every polling station and count. KDP and PUK members will not let fraud happen against their own parties: neither the PUK in the KDP’s zone  (Hawler and Duhok), nor the KDP in the PUK’s zone (Slemani). This time the elections may change the power structure and political scenarios of the KRG because none of the parties can alone achieve a majority to form the new cabinet. Meantime, the parties that form an ‘alliance government’ may marginalize the biggest party and determine the cabinet.

Let’s consider some post-election scenarios:

The first scenario is a continuation of the KDP-PUK alliance, which may achieve sufficient votes to form the cabinet, though it is not clear that they could achieve this.The second scenario is that the three opposition parties may increase their clout and may overtake the KDP and PUK. So they will form a new cabinet. This, again, may not happen.The third scenario is one, with several possible permutations, that involves changing the KRG’s whole political power structure and set-up:

The PUK and Gorran may form the new cabinet – this may not happen though their total seats in parliament may enable it.The KDP and Gorran may form the new cabinet – this is not at all likely to happen though their seats may be sufficient for it to happen. The KDP and the two Islamic parties may come up with a new alliance and form the new cabinet. This is not so difficult to happen if they achieve enough seats. The PUK, Gorran, Islamic Union and Islamic Group altogether may come up with an alliance and marginalize the KDP. This is the most likely possibility because all these parties want to weaken the KDP. At the same time, all these parties have points in common – returning the Constitution to the Parliament, for example.

This is just an outline of possibilities for the next polls. To my understanding, the last possibility I have mentioned is the only way towards a radical change.